RFU Championship semi-final second leg
Nottingham 21 (0)
Bedford Blues 23 (20)
Bedford Blues win 49-38 on aggregate
Attendance - 3,070
It was close on the night, but in the end there was little doubt about the overall result. Bedford Blues are into the final of the Championship for the first time in their history after defeating Nottingham 49-38 on aggregate.
First half tries from James Short and Luke Baldwin, plus 13 points from Myles Dorrian’s boot, were enough to see the Blues past Martin Haag’s men at Meadow Lane on Friday evening, despite the hosts fighting back by scoring 21 points in the second half. All eyes will now be on today’s other semi-final between Leeds Carnegie and Newcastle Falcons to see who their opponents will be.
The win came thanks in no small part to the efforts of the pack, with prop duo Ricky Reeves and Phil Boulton both making their presence felt after being recalled to the team after not starting in the first leg at Goldington Road.
Bedford held a nine-point lead from last weekend, although Dorrian missed the chance to extend the advantage in the third minute when his penalty attempt went wide. However, they did just that five minutes later.
Good kicking from Ben Ransom and Dorrian had kept Nottingham pinned in their own half early on, but the hosts did soon manage to break out on a run from Rhys Crane. That work was undone though when Joe Munro’s pass was interecepted and returned from 60 metres by Short for a converted try under the posts.
The Blues were dealt a blow in the 17th minute when Brendan Burke was forced off with a dislocated shoulder at a point where Nottingham were playing some fast, expansive rugby. But Dorrian soon settled things down with a penalty two minutes later.
Now very much chasing the game, the Green and Whites were keen to keep Bedford under the pump by kicking for the corner from penalties. However, wayward throws from Joseph Duffey at the line-ouproved costly. They also made several handling errors, while Bedford seized the intiative at the scrum.
Indeed, Dorrian’s second penalty on 27 minutes came from an infringement at the set piece. The dominance of the pack was further underlined at the set piece when the home sde were driven back following Duffey’s fourth botched line-out throw, and Nick Fenton-Wells broke off the back before putting Baldwin in to score.
Dorrian’s conversion put the Blues 29 points clear on aggregate at half time, but Nottingham hit back within four minutes of the restart. A powerful driving maul took them to within striking distance before the ball was worked out to Lewington, who raced through a gap in the defence to dot down with Arlidge converting.
Nottingham were in again two minutes later, with Duffey breaking the line before Montagu was driven over under the posts to give fly half Arlidge a simple conversion. Another Dorrian penalty put the Blues closer to victory, but the Green and Whites smelt blood.
A great move was then finished off by Crane with 15 minutes to go, and Arlidge kept up his perfect record with the boot to ensure his side closed to within two points in the match.
They were still well behind on aggregate though and were going to need something special to salvage a place in the final. Yet Bedford managed to hold firm for the 23-12 win with some tenacious defence, despite their opponents nearly breaking through in the dying seconds of the seven minutes added time when David Jackson knocked on from a Tim Streather pass.
Nottingham - Jackson; Lewington, Streather, Munro (Forsyth 58), Crane; Arlidge, Romans; Parr, Duffey (Malton 57), Holford, Montagu, Rouse, Cooper (Calladine 57), Wilson (captain), Shaw
Replacements Not Used - Bower, Price, Lee-Everton, Lynn
Bedford Blues - RRansom; Short, Burke (Dodge 17), Atkinson, Bassett; Dorrian (Sharp 73), Baldwin (Veenendaal 57); Reeves, Cochrane (Spurling 8), Boulton (Seal 41), Howard (Gulliver 57), Tupai (Barrell 80), Gillanders, Fox (captain), Fenton-Wells
Referee - Martin Fox